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Alston, Melvin Ovenus (07 October 1911–30 December 1985), educator, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Henry “Sonnie” Alston, a drayman, and Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Smith, a laundress. Of middle-class background in terms of an African-American family in the urban South in the 1920s, he grew up in a house that his family owned, free of any mortgage. After attending Norfolk’s segregated black public schools and graduating from Booker T. Washington High School, he graduated from Virginia State College (B.S., 1935), honored for his debating and for excellence in scholarship, and began teaching math at Booker T. Washington High School in 1935. Beginning in 1937 he served as president of the Norfolk Teachers Association, and he also held local leadership positions in the Young Men’s Christian Association and the First Calvary Baptist Church....

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Crandall, Prudence (03 September 1803–28 January 1890), abolitionist and teacher, was born in Hopkinton, Rhode Island, the daughter of Pardon Crandall, a Quaker farmer, and Esther Carpenter. When Crandall was ten her family moved to another farm in Canterbury, Connecticut. As a young woman she spent a few years (1825–1826, 1827–1830) at the New England Friends’ Boarding School in Providence and also taught school for a time in Plainfield, Connecticut....

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Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Seated right, with J. E. Fellows, dean of admissions at the University of Oklahoma, seated left, and, standing left to right, Thurgood Marshall and Amos T. Hall, 1948. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-84479).

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Fisher, Ada Lois Sipuel (08 February 1924–18 October 1995), civil rights pioneer, lawyer, and educator, was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, the daughter of Travis B. Sipuel, a minister and later bishop of the Church of Christ in God, one of the largest black Pentecostal churches in the United States, and Martha Bell Smith, the child of a former slave. Her parents moved to Chickasaw, Oklahoma, shortly after the Tulsa race riot of 1921....

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Freeman, Elizabeth (1742–28 December 1829), slave, nurse, and slavery lawsuit plaintiff, was born either in New York or Massachusetts, the daughter of parents probably born in Africa. She apparently became the slave of Pieter Hogeboom of New York quite early. The only trace of her parents is Freeman’s bequest to her daughter of two articles of clothing—a black silk gown given to Freeman by her father as a gift, and another gown that supposedly belonged to Freeman’s mother. During her lifetime and even after her death, she was known as “Mum Bett” or “Mumbet,” a name derived from “Elizabeth.” Lacking a surname for most of her life, she sued for freedom under the name “Bett” and adopted the name “Elizabeth Freeman” after winning her lawsuit in 1781....

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Gaines, Myra Clark ( June 1805–09 January 1885), celebrated litigant, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of Daniel Clark, a prominent merchant, real estate speculator, and first territorial representative from Louisiana to the U.S. Congress, and Marie Julie “Zulime” Carrière. Born in Sligo, Ireland, Daniel Clark emigrated to New Orleans, where he inherited his uncle’s extensive property holdings in Louisiana in 1799. A reputed bachelor, it is unclear whether Clark was ever legally married to Zulime Carrière, who was married to another man, but the couple did have two daughters, the second of whom was Myra. Clark failed to acknowledge his children publicly, and he placed Myra in the home of his close friend, Samuel Boyer Davis. She became known as Myra Davis and in 1812 moved with the Davises from New Orleans to Lewes, Delaware. She was educated at a selective female academy in Philadelphia....

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Gibbons, Thomas (15 December 1757–16 May 1826), planter, lawyer, and steamship owner, was born near Savannah, Georgia, the son of Joseph Gibbons and Hannah Martin, planters. Gibbons was schooled at home and in Charleston, South Carolina, where he also read law. He married Ann Heyword, but the date of the marriage is unknown. They had three children. Throughout his life Gibbons demonstrated a determined spirit. Contemporaries described him as a “high liver,” possessing a “strong mind, strong passions, strong prejudices, and strong self-will” (Halsted, pp. 16–17)....

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Gideon, Clarence Earl (30 August 1910–18 January 1972), convict whose Supreme Court case guaranteed indigents the right to legal counsel, was born in Hannibal, Missouri, the son of Charles Roscoe Gideon and Virginia Gregory, both employees in a shoe factory. His father died shortly after Gideon’s birthday, and his mother remarried two years later. His stepfather also worked at a local shoe factory. Gideon was educated in the Hannibal public school system until he ran away from home at the age of fourteen, “accepting the life of a hobo and tramp in preference to [his] home” (Lewis, ...

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King, Ada Copeland (23 December 1860?–14 April 1964), wife of the eminent geologist, explorer, and writer Clarence King, wife of the eminent geologist, explorer, and writer Clarence King, was born in or around West Point, Georgia. Though little is known of her early life, she was almost certainly born a slave, acquiring the name of Ada Copeland as a young girl. The names of her parents are unknown. In the mid-1880s, Copeland moved to New York City and found work as a nursemaid. In late 1887 or 1888 she met a man who introduced himself as a Pullman porter named James Todd. They were married in September 1888 by the Reverend James H. Cook, a prominent minister with the Union American Methodist Episcopal Church. Although Todd represented himself to Copeland as a Marylander of African American descent, this was a false identity. He was in fact Clarence King (1842–1901), a socially and politically prominent white man from Newport, Rhode Island, educated at Yale, who had led the Fortieth Parallel Survey across the western United States, written a popular book called ...

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Loving, Richard Perry (29 October 1933–29 June 1975), construction worker and plaintiff in the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia (1967), construction worker and plaintiff in the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia (1967), was born in Caroline County, Virginia, the son of Twillie Loving, a lumber truck driver, and Lola Allen, a homemaker and midwife. He attended local schools, worked as a bricklayer, and was a drag racer in his spare time. In June 1958, in Washington, D.C., Loving, a white man, married Mildred Dolores Jeter, of mixed Native-American and African-American ancestry. They took up residence as newlyweds in her parents’ home in Caroline County. Early one morning some weeks later, they awoke to find three police officers in their bedroom, and they were arrested for violating Virginia’s laws against interracial marriage. In January 1959 they pleaded guilty, and the presiding judge, Leon Bazile, sentenced them each to a year in jail but suspended the sentence on condition that they leave the state and not return together for the next twenty-five years....